Serene, foreboding, dappled with sunlight, or scoured by rain, South Lantau’s beaches are world-class. Samantha Wong shares her all-time top five
We are fortunate indeed to have wonderful beaches here on Lantau, from big open bays complete with lifeguard towers and Coca-Cola stalls, to small, hidden gems tucked beneath rugged cliffs. Here are five of the best to visit, or revisit this summer.
1 Pui O Beach
Pui O’s environs are hard to beat. The route from the bus stop on South Lantau Road takes you past sleepy Pui O village, and through fields where water buffalo are often found grazing, or simply hanging out. Once you reach the water, you are presented with an untouched beach flanked by a rocky outcrop on the Chi Ma Wan peninsula to the southeast, and Yi Tung Shan and Sunset Peak to the northwest.
At the beach itself, you can spend your day in several ways. Parents can set up shop at Treasure Island’s terraced restaurant and watch the kids gallivant on the beach below. The group also offers beach chair, kayak and board rentals, as well as coolers and beach bags in case you prefer to pick up supplies and lug them across the ‘black’ sand.
Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from going it alone (by bringing your own board); Pui O is diligently supervised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD). The lifeguard hours in summer, as with all beaches that are maintained by the LCSD, are from 9am to 6pm on weekdays, and from 8am to 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
One of the most appealing aspects of Pui O is how easy it is to overnight there. The tents and cabanas offered by Treasure Island may be the prudent, albeit more expensive option, if your priority is a good night’s sleep. However, the LCSD campsite on the other side of the beach is at most 50 metres from the sea (tide dependant) and there you’ll be rocked to sleep by the sound of the waves smashing the shore. Either way, it’s truly hard to reconcile the fact that you’re in Hong Kong with what you witness as the
sun sets on Pui O.
2 Silvermine Bay Beach
A perfect crescent of sand nestled below Lin Fa Shan peak and the spectacular Mui Wo basin, Silvermine Bay Beach is busier than most on Lantau, largely because it’s somewhere you can enjoy the sand and sea without too much hassle. Like Pui O, it’s supervised by the LCSD.
This easily accessible beach has excellent facilities, including barbecue pits. Although, when it comes to getting something to eat you are spoilt for choice, as all of Mui Wo’s restaurants are within a 10-minute walk from the beach.
If you and your friends are the active sort, have a turn using the beach volleyball court nestled under a pair of trees just metres from the river Silver. Alternately, spend a night at Silvermine Beach Hotel and enjoy some of the myriad outdoor activities on offer – you can rent stand-up paddle boards, peddle boats and kayaks.
It is worth mentioning, however, that the water quality at Silvermine Bay Beach is on-average rated as ‘Fair’ by the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the grade below ‘Good,’ and the beach can get quite crowded on weekends. However, when you consider that it is only a quick kaito or bus ride away, Silvermine Bay Beach is a great repeat destination for families.
3 Upper Cheung Sha Beach
One of the two sister beaches divided by an unassuming headland that barely reaches the coast, Upper Cheung Sha is the longest beach on Lantau (3 kilometres), and one of the longest in Hong Kong. To get there simply hop off the bus at Cheung Sha Ha Tsuen, and walk down the slope. This beach is also maintained by the LCSD, and the lifeguard post at the western end has the usual showers, toilets and changing rooms. While the sand is soft and powdery, there are some rocks dotted around both in the water and on the beach itself, so be a bit careful where you set up, and where you swim.
Bring lots of water and snacks if you plan to stay the day, as Upper Cheung Sha has less amenities and restaurants than its lower, busier counterpart, and there is very little shade. This beach is best enjoyed under a portable umbrella, with a cooler full of drinks, sandwiches, chips and dips.
The main draw of Upper Cheung Sha is its sheer length. Walking west from the lower beach you have the tree-lined beach to your right and to your left, the sea and various islands to Lantau’s south. In the foreground, lies the islet Cha Kwo Chau, and further behind it the Soko Islands. If you look back to Lower Cheung Sha, you see the same outcrop as you do from Pui O, as well as Shek Kwu Chau. Yes, the future home of the mega-incinerator.
4 Tai Long Wan
By far the smallest and most remote beach on this list, Tai Long Wan, which translates as Big Wave Bay, actually boasts three beaches. And it’s unique in all ways but in name. There’s a Tai Long Wan in Sai Kung, one on the easternmost coast of Hong Kong Island, and not one but two on Lantau – the other one shoulders Sea Ranch and is only accessible by hike or sampan from Cheung Chau. It’s a spectacular beach, but a bit too out of the way for most. To visit this particular Tai Long Wan is still quite a trek. After
getting off a bus at Sha Tsui at the corner of Shek Pik Reservoir, follow Wang Pui Road (and the sound of crashing waves) through Tai Long Wan village to the beach. If you’re taking it easy, or have small children in tow, it may take up to 30 minutes to reach the beach from the road. As a reward for your efforts, you’ll likely find yourself on a
completely deserted beach. There are no chairs, umbrellas or lifeguards on duty, and definitely no restaurants. Everything you will need for the day, you will have to bring yourself. This may seem like a drawback, but with the hectic lifestyles so many of us lead, simple seclusion (perhaps enjoyed with a few friends or family) is a real luxury.
5 Shui Hau Beach
Shui Hau is a gem of a beach, wild and compact and, like Tai Long Wan, it’s often deserted. Take the bus to Shui Hau and look out for the signposts at the western edge of the village pointing south to the sea. The beach lies on part of the Lantau Trail, so the yellow way-markers, with silhouettes of two hikers, will also take you in the right direction. There are no facilities here save a roughly hewn area for camping, so again you’ll need to bring whatever you need for the duration of your stay. The beach mainly attracts hikers and campers, being out of reach for most day trippers and casual tourists. It’s also home to the Kiteboarding Association of Hong Kong and a great place for beginners to test their mettle. Palms, ferns and Banyan trees dot the waterline and the sand is silky and white. Enjoy the splendour of the setting, nestled in a rocky inlet, with glorious Lantau Peak at your back.
The amount of litter that arrives courtesy of the sea is notorious in Hong Kong and, for Lantau beaches, there are times of the year when beach cleaners are kept fully occupied removing the detritus that comes ashore with every tide. Well managed in the main, they do suffer from time to time from the litter people leave behind, so do your bit to keep them pristine. To get involved in a local beach clean-up, visit www.ecomarinehongkong.org, or email ROBAR (rubbish-off-beaches-and-roads) at [email protected]
Lantau’s southern coast is peppered with pretty beaches but given the prospect of the future Shek Kwu Chau incinerator and the looming East Lantau Metropolis project, you really shouldn’t wait to explore them. The latest government plans set forth a litany of projects aimed at attracting, retaining and entertaining largescale tourism. To express your concern, email [email protected].
While you may not get crystal clear seas, the water quality around southern Lantau is at some of the best levels in Hong Kong. The EPD consistently rates the water at many
beaches as ‘Good,’ the highest rating it has, meaning the lowest quantities of E. Coli bacteria. For weekly updates on the water quality off beaches throughout Hong Kong,visit www.beachwq.gov.hk/en/map.aspx.
When swimming in undesignated areas, or areas not supervised by lifeguards, stay close to the shore. It’s also advisable to swim with a buddy, and have young children
or inexperienced swimmers wear approved lifejackets. Never leave a young child unattended near water and don’t trust a child’s life to another child. If someone goes missing, check the water first.